Two race facts will be remembered from the 2021 Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne edition. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) blew the race apart and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) racked up a sprint victory. The 2019 world champion and 2020 winner of Gent-Wevelgem is the second Danish winner for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne after last year’s victory from Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
“I’m super happy. It’s a classic,” Pedersen said in the post-race flash interview.
“I like to race in Belgium. I like the cobbles. Normally the atmosphere is better with all the spectators here. It’s nice to follow up on the Danish win from Kasper.”
The toy donkey which is awarded to the winner in Kuurne was well received by Pedersen. “I like donkeys. I know Jasper Stuyven likes them, too. I’m calling it Ryan, after our teammate,” Pedersen said, with a big smile and his thoughts with Ryan Mullen.
Mathieu van der Poel put up quite the spectacle on Sunday by attacking the peloton on the Kanarieberg at 83km from the finish in Kuurne. Pedersen only saw the front of the race in the final few hundred metres in Kuurne but was a close witness of van der Poel’s attack.
“Actually I was sitting in his wheel when he went. It was quite early. I didn’t even want to follow. It’s a pretty strong field. Chapeau for trying. They almost made it. Today it wasn’t in their favour, it was in our favour,” Pedersen said while talking to the media at the open-air mixed zone in Kuurne. The 25-year-old Danish rider was obviously content with the win on Sunday in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, especially after seeing a lackluster team performance during Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
“Always make the legs speak and don’t make shitty excuses,” Pedersen said in the flash interview. He later explained that he realized the team needed to bounce back with a good performance in Kuurne.
“Yesterday was not a little bit bad. It was pretty shit. Today we take the victory. It wasn’t good enough yesterday. With the team we have, not to be in the first group… That’s definitely not OK. We had a good talk yesterday. We wanted to show with the legs that we’re good enough and I think we showed that today. We don’t want to see the team of yesterday. I’d pick today’s team. That’s for sure.” At 60km from the finish, the peloton was blown to pieces on the 2.2km long cobbled Oude Kwaremont climb. Pedersen struggled and ended up riding in a second peloton that only bridged back up to the first chase group at 12km from the finish.
“I just wasn’t good enough to follow the guys,” Pedersen admitted. “It was still a good situation for us with Jasper Stuyven in the first group because he can also do a really good sprint. We were quite happy with the situation but for me it was better when it came back together. From there we had to do the sprint for me,” Pedersen said.
There’s still more than a month before the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Pedersen knew there was no reason to panic about being dropped on the Oude Kwaremont climb.
“It’s still quite far. We still have some stage races and so on. The shape is there. The team is there. Yesterday they weren’t and now they were there. It’s looking quite OK. I’m not in top form yet and that’s why I feel quite confident for the next classics. If I was in top shape it wouldn’t be possible but I’m not there yet. I miss the last two percentages and Paris-Nice will make the last bit of difference and then it will be good. Hopefully I will be able to follow them the next time we go up the Kwaremont,” Pedersen said and laughed.
In the two kilometres long crosswinds section before the final corner, the Trek-Segafredo duo played a game poker. The breakaway group of five with Van der Poel was still enjoying a small bonus, and Stuyven nor Pedersen were planning to close the gap back down.
“We just hoped that somebody would attack in that section and that others would close the gap back down for us. It was a matter of not getting dropped in that section. Jasper then did a perfect lead-out. Simple. When his knees went wide I knew I had to launch the sprint. It was nice to finish it off today and make a result,” Pedersen said.
Next up for Mads Pedersen is Paris-Nice and Milano-San Remo before kicking off the northern one-day classics with the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, better known as E3 Harelbeke.